Federal Funding Headed to Maine Agribusinesses

More than $1 million will be used in myriad ways, from improving potato yields to marketing seafood.

Published online: Oct 09, 2017 Articles Mary Pols
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Maine businesses and food projects will receive over $1 million in funding from the USDA, including $500,000 designated for food processing and distribution in the greater Portland area, according to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

The biggest single grant is to the Greater Portland Council of Governments, which will receive $500,000 for its project “Scaling for Growth in the Portland Foodshed.” The project is intended to address a lack of food processing infrastructure and an inefficient distribution network, and will include outreach and training to 907 farms, wholesalers, institutions, processors and retailers within the Portland foodshed. It will also fund the use of a technology platform, Spoiler Alert, that seeks to reduce food waste.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is awarding $61 million in grants nationwide. Typically, the service announces those grants, but this year there was no news release. Instead, Pingree’s staff learned about the grants and prepared its own statement.

Other funding coming to Maine includes nearly $100,000 for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to address supply chain challenges for local seafood. The USDA grants also include $530,000 in Specialty Crop Block Grants to be distributed by the state’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The grants will provide support for two different aspects of the maple syrup business.

The Maine Maple Producers Association will receive funding for its efforts to increase retail sales by at least 10 percent, and the Maine Agricultural & Forest Experimentation Station and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension will use USDA funding to address microbial quality and safety of the state’s maple syrup.

Two of Maine’s most important crops, wild blueberries and potatoes, are on tap for federal grants as well. The Maine Potato Board’s research into crop rotation as a means to improve potato yields will receive funding, as will a project of the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine to optimize inputs for weed and disease management.

“Increasing the production and consumption of local food represents a fantastic opportunity for Maine jobs and businesses,” Pingree said in the statement. “From boosting local food processing in greater Portland to marketing locally caught seafood, these federal investments will be terrific assets to building Maine’s food-based economy. That’s why I’ve advocated so hard for these kinds of investments in Washington and am actively working to strengthen them.”

 

Source: Portland Press Herald